Ford has been hard at work in recent years developing its self-driving vehicles via Argo AI, with an eye toward launching its autonomous commercial services in 2022 following a COVID-19 related delay. However, Waymo – a subsidiary of Google – is already operating driverless, fully autonomous commercial vehicles in the metro area of Phoenix, Arizona, and a new video shows a passenger taking a ride in one.
Waymo has been working toward this point for the last 11 years after previously having a driver behind the wheel ready to take over in case things went wrong. It’s been slowly ramping up to this point after somewhere between five and ten percent of its rides in 2020 were fully autonomous, but over the last year, has been able to pioneer widespread, fully driverless, paid rides on high-speed roads.
Waymo expects that in the near future, all of its ride services will be driverless. In the meantime, it has added in-vehicle barriers to separate drivers and passengers amid the COVID-19 pandemic and is providing a “cabin air flush” in between rides for safety, allowing it to continue to provide rides in areas that don’t yet allow fully autonomous services. Regardless, it’s easy to see that driverless vehicles are the wave of the future.
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“Safety is our number one goal. We are building the world’s most experienced driver. We have driven over 20 million rides on the road, and in simulation, we have driven 20 billion miles,” said Ryan Powell, Waymo’s Director of User Experience Research and Design. “Now during the pandemic, they appreciate having that space to themselves and feel it is a safer way to travel.”